“Over the past few months, we have all been inundated with news, best practices, and evolving information about COVID-19, and how to protect ourselves and others. In the context of library spaces, directives and suggestions for keeping staff and patrons safe come from various sources: the provincial government, local health units, municipalities, and health and safety associations. This blog post summarizes some of this information and points you to resources for greater clarification.
Provincial Reopening Framework
In the Spring, the Ontario government announced the reopening of the province through gradual stages. At each stage, the government has provided a framework in which public libraries can operate in a reduced capacity.
- Reopening Ontario webpage: Primary Government of Ontario webpage containing the portal to the Reopening Framework, health and safety information, and to other COVID-19 information.
- Sage 1 Framework [French] was released on May 15. In Stage 1, specific rules, outlined in Ontario Regulation 82/20, [French] allowed libraries to offer curbside pickup and delivery services as of May 19.
- Stage 2 Framework [French], published in Ontario Regulation 263/20, [French] allows, as of June 12th, patrons access into the library to facilitate contactless drop-off and pick-up or to access computers, photocopiers or similar services.
- Stage 3 Framework [French] went into effect on July 17th in most areas of the province. Ontario Regulation 364/20 [French] provides the Stage 3 rules for libraries. Libraries can continue what they did in Stage 2 and this framework also states that “public libraries may open if circulating materials that are returned or accessed within the library are disinfected or quarantined for an appropriate period of time before they are recirculated.”
To help explain the options available to libraries with Stage 3 openings or various considerations for reopening the library, after consulting with Ministry staff, Southern Ontario Library Service and Ontario Library Service—North staff provided written clarification in the COVID-19: Information Resources for Public Libraries guide under the heading of “Response and Reopening Plans”.
Within the reopening framework provided by the province, the health and safety of workers and the public is a top concern. Additional resources to consult include:
- The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) has information on the protection of workers and a requirement for safe workplaces.
- The Chief Medical Officer of Health for the province as well as local health units have issued specific directives to be followed. For example, many health units or municipalities have ordered or passed bylaws requiring masks or face coverings in indoor public spaces.
- The Public Services Health & Safety Association (PSHSA.ca) has prepared documents for library employers and employees that should be reviewed to ensure that all aspects of health and safety are considered.
We know that library boards and library staff are keen to serve the public, and in most communities, the library’s reopening is an important step to help reconnect local communities! Although much in our lives have changed over the past six months, existing library board governance structures continue to offer a crucial structure for decision-making. The lines of communication must remain open and transparent. Information from the government as to the permissions allowed at each stage of reopening must be shared with the library board and the library staff – as a way of ensuring that everyone is on the same page in the reopening framework – and everyone is aware of what is happening to/with the public library in your local community. Using the framework provided by the provincial government, each library can strive to provide the widest range of services possible, as safely as possible.
As you continue to plan your reopening, it is important to remember not to rush reopening and to move from phase to phase as staffing and resources allow. And as always, a SOLS consultant or OLS—North advisor is available to chat with you about your local framework for reopening.”